Dear Client, what will you do with the information once you've got it? Consulting is more than just recommending solutions

Dear Client, what will you do with the information once you've got it? Consulting is more than just recommending solutions

By : Dalia E Paratore Harrison

Consultants are hired for their expertise: to fix problems, make operations more efficient, cut costs or really do anything a client needs or thinks they need. However, the reality is that a consultant can identify problems and make recommendations but he/she cannot fix organizational effectiveness.  What this means is that for recommended solutions to work a client must be willing or able to implement them. And this is the key. Should a consultant stay on or be called back in order to participate in the implementation process? This is a matter of some debate but in our professional opinion the answer is a nuanced absolutely. Recommendations that are not implemented are a waste of money and time, they are not good for the client and certainly not for the consultant whose job it is to “fix problems”.

There are arguably various stages in the consulting process and these should be followed with care by both the consultant and the client. By making the client a key participant in the diagnostic process, they will be better able to assist the consultant in the following:

  • Identifying the true problem(s) as this could be considerably different than what the client originally thought it was
  • Help the client understand their role in said problems; this without the casting of blame and creating a greater ownership and excitement about proposed solutions
  • Establish the relationship as a joint consultant-client task force, thus creating a greater ownership of the problems and solutions as they arise.  As the consultant helps translate problems into objective solutions he or she will better be able to understand what actual solutions are feasible. Meaning an organization functions holistically and some solutions may be interdivisional and require a multi-team participation.

The reality is that when clients are fully engaged in the diagnostic process the efficacy of proposed solutions is greatly enhanced.  This also allows for the client-consultant relationship to be built upon trust and two-sided commitment.  It is frustrating for a consultant to make recommendations that end up sitting on a shelf.  It is frustrating for a client to feel that proposed solutions are unrealistic, too costly or untenable.  Therefore, the end goal must always be implementation.  Why?  Because ‘implementation’ satisfies “fixing the problem”, what the consultant was hired to do.

So, how do you go about proper implementation? We’ve already established that a proper diagnosis of the problem must be ascertained by the consultant-client task force.  The solutions (recommendations) therefore must also be agreed upon by the client.  This is accomplished by having enough stakeholders on board.  These key players must have been properly identified by the task force and should be called upon in order to reach consensus and commitment for the new problem-solving techniques being recommended.  Remember, an organization usually functions holistically.  What this means is that a proposed marketing campaign may fail because of production and scheduling.  Or a new sales strategy may fail because samples of products cannot be shipped in time to potential customers.  All of this should be taken into account when crafting solutions. Recommendations must take into consideration the entire picture and this picture can only be attained with the help of the client and all stakeholders.

The consultant may assist in the implementation of recommendations without usurping the client, managers’ or stakeholders’ jobs.  Consultants don’t just provide expert advice but also practical help in improving an organization’s performance.  Consultants can be key players in creating greater organizational effectiveness and this is the true “fix”.

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